Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Ancestry.com Announces Landmark Probate Collection

Ancestry.com announces landmark probate collection.Last week Ancestry.com announced a new, significant, collection of databases: U.S. Wills and Probates. The collection contains more than 170 million images covering all 50 states, and spanning years from 1668 to 2005. The documents mention more than 100 million people, including the deceased and others mentioned in the records. This is the first time there has been a will and probate collection of this scale for the United States online.

Ancestry has invested several years and $10 million to license and digitize these records! The effort will continue for several years to come. While Ancestry has been accused of pandering their new website design for beginners, in my opinion the choice to publish probate records demonstrates a dedication to experienced users as well. If you learn the handwriting, wills aren’t too bad for less experienced genealogists.

“Wills can offer an incredible view into the lives of your ancestors, going beyond names and dates, and providing insight into their personality, character, achievements, relationships, and more,” said Todd Godfrey, vice president of global content.

According to Ancestry’s Matt Deighton, this is the collection that Ancestry announced at RootsTech. In 2013 Ancestry’s Tim Sullivan said, “It’s exciting for me to stand on this stage at this conference and announce our largest and most ambitious collaboration with FamilySearch ever. Over the next three years FamilySearch and Ancestry are going to work together to digitize and index over 140 million pages of U.S. probate records spanning from 1800 to 1930.” Interestingly, Ancestry’s press release contains no mention that the collection was a collaborative effort. FamilySearch made no corresponding announcement so there is no information as to when or even if FamilySearch will publish the same collection.

Ancestry.com's probate collection utilizes new probate packet website features.This collection utilizes new features of the New Ancestry website, which I believe to be support for packets of records. It includes a table of contents for the packet. This great new feature identifies the document types in the packet and gives the ability to jump directly to a particular document. Because it requires these new features, these databases can not be viewed with the old website.

For more information see


  1. I like how you gloss over how awful the NEW version of ancestry.com is. We have complained and complained at just how difficult it is to work on this NEW site. If you are an ancestry.com subscriber and are unhappy too about these new changes that make it nearly impossible to get around the site, and have taken away many valuable features, please consider signing the Petition to ask Ancestry to KEEP the OLD version so users can choose which version they prefer to work in. The NEW website is simply awful to TRY to work in and has taken all the fun out of researching.

    You will need ot be careful about boxes that are checked when you sign, and IF you get further emails simply unsubscribe to the petition site. Please share the site with everyone you know, so we can show ancestry just how unhappy we are with being forced to convert to the NEW site.


  2. I accidentally clicked on a will record and found myself yanked into New Ancestry, which I hate. Fortunately, I knew how to get back out. But I bet a lot of people don't. I did not appreciate not being warned that clicking on this would send me automatically into New Ancestry. But I bet they are figuring some carrot-and-stick approach will work. Not with me. Not until I have no choice left. They can keep their wills and probates.

  3. Wasn't this collection already available on FamilySearch? Or at least most of it? This is the indexed or transcribed version of the same info, isn't it? This whole new collection is Ancestry.com's passive-aggressive method of migrating people to their hideous new website. Although they keep encouraging subscribers to document and submit problems and issues, the number of items that they have on their list to be work on is minimal. It seems that they have been unable to correct the issues that came up on the very first day: the dark background, round portraits that do not fit photos that customers have uploaded, and Ancestry's interpretation or member's family histories. Ancestry programmers or developers, if you can even call them that, have no business interpreting your family history, or modifying personal photos, documents, or stories that subscribers have uploaded in order to fit some faceless designer's idea of how to make things "LOOK" better. That is not what family histories are about. Nice to know that Tim Sullivan shows his face somewhere. Hopefully it is red with embarrassment. He and his other highly paid cohorts have done nothing to stop this derailed fiasco. I am surprised that you are not aware of the thousands of dissatisfied Ancestry customers.

  4. Well, my goodness, if this is "pandering their new website design for beginners," it's a epic fail! People don't just dislike the New--they "hate, despise, loathe" it. I and many others think it's much more than "resistance to change," as some have said to dismiss the complaints. I've found it less functional (things are missing, but I hope ACOM will restore those things) and certainly much less visually appealing. It's dark, depressing-looking (some people have described it as looking like death), and simultaneously garish and dreary, which is a good feat for a web designer, I guess! I don't have the knowledge to understand why the cosmetic aspects of the interface had to change so drastically. I grasp the need for "under the hood" work to keep up with technology, but was it really necessary to change the paint job too? Because I think the "free" capacity to build an online tree is as much a marketing tool as ACOM's trial come-ons. That said, if ACOM wants new customers, I would think it would provide an attractive, easier (although it won't ever be as easy as depicted on TV!) and more intuitive interface instead of a more complicated, confusing, and unattractive one. I don't know if I would ever have signed up if the tree-building capacity hadn't been available and I wonder how many people would stay, or even begin, if ACOM just stopped offering its "free" trees. I would very much like to hear your views, and of course, I've signed up for your blog! Thanks again.

  5. because they want you to upgrade to the new site...of course for more money....this company is a monopoly of what should be public records

  6. I agree with the complaints about being forced to go to the New Ancestry to view these records. However, I can't commend Ancestry enough for adding them to the site. I used to use the probate records on familysearch.org, which meant searching manually through thousands of images. Even if the new probate records on Ancestry are only partially indexed, that is a big improvement. I imagine that indexing them completely will be a huge task that takes time.

    Kudoes to Ancestry for adding these probate records and for working on indexing them!!! The staff in charge of adding collections deserves a huge round of applause for this.

    (If only the staff responsible for the visual appearance of the site and its search engine were as good at their jobs - oh, well...)

  7. Huh. I haven't really been bothered by recent changes. Yeah, it's a learning curve each time, but being uncomfortable for a while keeps me from getting in a rut.

  8. I absolutly hate and despise the new Ancestory Site/ I strongly resent Ancestory taking it upon themselves to write my Families Bios. I am NOT 10 years old. It takes forever to load anything and half of my records disappeared. I can't load any of my pictures but was told when I called, it was just a glitch they are working on.

    Ancestory, are you trying to send us to other Sites to place our tree? There are many out there that would love to have us.

  9. They are "actionable" if Ancestry decides to act. i get the impression they have very little intention of changing very much. There are reams and reams of specific suggestion on the blog on the help page, but since no one from ancestry seems to read those--it is a user-to-user forum, so they say--it feels a bit pointless to be the 9000th person to raise the same issue when there is little evidence of willingness to change. The circles are a perfect example of stubbornness to the point of intractability. So is the dreary colour scheme.

  10. Are the probate files for Nassau County, New York, scheduled to be digitized by Ancestry or FamilySearch?

    1. Tom,

      I'm afraid I don't know. I reached out to Ancestry and this is what they had to say:

      "We announce larger content collections at the beginning of the year. We do not announce the specific launch dates of record collections due to the fact that some collections get held back for additional quality assurance, bug fixes and grouping with other like collections. By waiting to announce specific collections until day of, we minimize frustration from our users who were awaiting the launch."

      As an insider, I can certainly confirm this. Collection acquisition and publication is affected by many factors. If Ancestry.com or FamilySearch were to preannounce publication, it could cause consternation constantly.

      --The Ancestry Insider


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